DeBell planning moves forward

A plan to reinvigorate the financially-troubled DeBell Golf Club through the use of a specialized consultant met with resistance from some golfers, who questioned the $26,000 cost. 

But officials noted the city-owned course had been losing money for several years, so a review of the facility’s operations by an outside expert was appropriate, they said. Approximately 30 people attended the golf oversight committee meeting Wednesday. The committee was created because of council members’ concern about the course’s consistent financial losses. 

In June the city loaned the course $2 million, with $1 million of that set aside for the next fiscal year.

The committee is collecting operational and financial data on the course, set to be reviewed at a special council meeting Aug. 25. At that meeting, the committee plans to present two options to the City Council: either hire the National Golf Foundation, at a cost of approximately $26,000, or seek out different consulting firms. 

Don Miles, president of Burbank’s Senior Men’s Club, said more people needed to be made aware of DeBell’s value to the community. But Miles questioned why an outside agency was needed. 

“I’d rather see the $21,000 go to replace plumbing,” Miles said, referring to the approximate cost to retain the National Golf Foundation, a nonprofit consulting firm that researches golf trends. City officials renegotiated with NGF to get the price to $21,500 plus travel costs. 

The original NGF estimate came in at $22,500 and included a site visit for a total that would not exceed $26,000.

Councilman Dave Golonski, who sits on the golf oversight committee with Mayor Jess Talamantes, said he thought the cost would remain around $26,000 because travel costs likely would be factored in for two trips — the site visit, and a final presentation to the council.

The foundation sent an unsolicited proposal to the city when media reports began surfacing about the club’s money problems. 

Craig Kessler, director of governmental affairs for the Southern California Golf Association, said Burbank was not alone in its troubles, but predicted the course would become profitable. 

But he underscored the need to involve stakeholders, saying that the committee should reach out to local consultants. 

“NGF plans to engage stakeholders on your behalf as a third party,” Kessler said. “You want a genuine partnership,” he said, adding that golfers should be heavily involved. 

Miles echoed that sentiment, saying he was concerned about the lack of representation.

Golonski said the intention was not to exclude anyone.

“We wanted to get moving as soon as possible,” Golonski said. “Scott (Scozzola) and Shelly (Lucero) are involved and we can certainly reconsider and see how it works out.”

Scozzola is DeBell’s director of golf and Lucero runs the facility’s Clubhouse Grill with her husband Ray.

Other members of the audience questioned whether an outside agency was needed to tell the committee why things went wrong at the course. Golonski, however, said a fresh look was needed.

“The course has been in the red for two years. We need a change,” he said. “I think a third party is worthwhile.”

Talamantes said time was of the essence because the $1 million lent to the course would be spent by next summer. 

“We’re taking this seriously, investing the time to get it right and get it fixed,” Golonski said.

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